Coherence and COVID-19

What one thinks when “Well, that escalated quickly” becomes a gross understatement.


This is the third weekend of the month when the U.S.A. began to grasp just how big a deal that COVID-19 a/k/a novel coronavirus was going to be. It’s been a head-snapping experience for your friendly writer, just as it doubtless has been for almost all of you, wherever you are.

Just two weekends ago, my vain hope for a restful weekend ended when our first grandchild was born nearly a month earlier than predicted. We now know that was an astoundingly fortunate happenstance rather than the oh-I-hope-she-didn’t-arrive-too-early that we initially believed it to be.1 Indeed, just as I was helping our son-in-law haul all their stuff down in preparation for the trip home, the hospital was setting up the beginnings of its check-all-visitors-for-the-virus operation in the lobby. Even though we were outside the building only a moment as he loaded the vehicle, we had to pass muster upon our re-entry — attesting to our neither having COVID-19 symptoms nor having been out of the U.S.A. recently (specific other countries were mentioned, but I frankly didn’t understand what the person asking said through her somewhat ill-fitting mask).

That was my first encounter with any anti-COVID-19 measures.

Then, later that week, a player in the National Basketball Association (NBA) tested positive for COVID-19, and the NBA season was suspended soon thereafter.

From there, at least for us folks here in my country, things seemed to spiral out of control, and dizzyingly so.


Over the next couple of days, one major sporting event after another began to be cancelled. The news about the spread of COVID-19 came fast and furious and, by the end of the work week, I decided to take home my water mug — the only personal item I usually leave at the office — just in case we were told over the weekend to work from home for a few days as a matter of caution.

A few days. Wow. How amazingly naïve an assumption that now seems in retrospect.

That was a little over a week ago, and now we’ve become a nation — and a world — edging toward lockdown and a full-stop to the economy while trying desperately to avoid getting, or giving each other, this damnable virus.

My wife and I are in our sixties (albeit not yet the apparently “magic” age of sixty-five), so we have to be especially careful about getting exposed. That’s easier said than done, as each new day brings word of new COVID-19 cases here in Dallas/Fort Worth.

By the way: I have seen some gallows humor in social media to the effect that younger folks, especially the ones who love to tout that “OK, Boomer” crap, are ironically (?) cheering on this virus as a “Boomer cleaner” — i.e., as something which will wipe out a generation they detest for supposedly depriving them of jobs, electing leaders they hate, and so on.2 As the father and father-in-law of two very fine millennials, I prefer to think otherwise. But it seems there are some among the literati who’ve been thinking and writing that, given a choice between the crash of the world economy and just going back to normal life while letting the virus “thin the herd” of us older folks, they’re inclined toward the latter.

Anyway, back to the “easier-said-than-done” part about avoiding COVID-19 where we live . . .

Last night, for example, an email from the auto dealership where we recently purchased a vehicle informed us that one of the dealership’s employees had tested positive for COVID-19 and, as a result, the dealership was closing temporarily.3 I was there on March 7 to pick up tags for the new vehicle4, but interacted with only one or two employees during my brief visit. That was two weeks ago, which is the limit of the observed incubation period for COVID-19; but so far, so good.

No end in sight

My naïveté over the timing of my working from home due to the COVID-19 scare is long gone. That period is now indefinite, especially since my employers’ home offices as well as the branch office where I work are affected by their respective states’ regulations requiring near- or total shutdown of non-essential businesses.

When will it end? Some businesses are saying things like April something-or-other. Since I have spent a great deal of time reading and listening to the opinions of leading epidemiologists5 over these last few days, I think such optimism is the product of somebody having smoked something funky.

I’m no betting man, but right now I would be astounded if we’re told it’s OK to go back to sort-of-normal before late June or early July.

And then there’s the widespread expectation that this virus, like others of its nature, will hit in waves, with the current outbreak being the first such wave and a second one likely to occur in the fall (Northern Hemisphere fall, that is). Then what? Remember: the experts say getting a usable vaccine will take until about this time next year at the earliest.

Until then, all we can do is isolate ourselves every time COVID-19 raises its nasty head.

And even when we do try to return to normal: will there be a functioning world economy left for us?

It’s highly unclear where this ends, how it ends, or if it ends. Who can be sure the slimy microscopic bastard won’t mutate into something else that’s just as deadly but resistant to that yet-to-come vaccine, thus restarting the whole process?

I can hear the skeptics now: “Ooh, you’re too negative.”

Fine. So I’m negative. But . . .

. . . Given how quickly this whole thing came upon us — remember, Patient Zero in Wuhan, China, was only about four months ago — I feel this simply justifies an attitude I’ve long held and seen vindicated over and over again: being a pessimist may not make you fun to be around, but it also is more likely to prepare you for reality.6

And right now, to coin a phrase: reality bites.

“Let’s be careful out there”

(N. B.: That harkens back to the 1980s and Hill Street Blues.)

So, until reality ceases to bite in at least this specific way it’s biting right now . . .

Hunker down. Wash your hands every chance you get, with soap and for twenty seconds. By the way, here’s why that matters, in case you haven’t seen this.

Do this not just for yourself but for everyone with whom you might unavoidably come into contact.

Stay safe, folks. Be nice. Don’t hoard. Take care of your loved ones. Hope for better times in a world that has emerged, if scarred and shaken, from this threat.

  1. And she’s still fine, by the way, gaining weight and getting cuter with every new photo our daughter and son-in-law send. ↩︎

  2. I emphatically plead “Not guilty” to the latter; but, especially given what the recent economic carnage has done to my retirement account, I admit I will be working full-time for as long as I have the opportunity and health to do so. ↩︎

  3. If you’re thinking, “Well, it’s not as if they were gonna get car-shoppers on the lot with all that’s going on right now,” all I can reply is: “You’d think.” You see, this area seems full of COVID-19 skeptics. They surely have seen news coverage of the virus but — given the typical political leanings around here — are doubtful about whether it’s truly all that serious. Science begs to differ, as it usually does. ↩︎

  4. As I previously mentioned, I had just finished that errand when we learned the aforementioned grandchild had decided to start her early arrival. ↩︎

  5. I trust science. Period. As I said on Twitter about this mess: “Science > myth. Truth > lies. Real smarts > fake smarts. Realism > thinking ‘miracles’ will fix a crisis. Whatever happens, these are always true.” ↩︎

  6. Since I hate surprises, I’d rather be prepared than gobsmacked. ↩︎